One great thing about work/life balance is it reminds employers that we have a life outside work. I'm all for that.
But beyond that I'm not so sure. Ruth Billheimer of Virtual Balance emailed me today to ask if I could fill in her survey. She'd noticed that people are seeking fulfillment in their work rather than balance and wanted to know more.
I've had two babies in the last two years, so I'm still trying to thrash out what my new work and life will look like. As for balance, well I'm totally unbalanced – my life is 90% babies and 10% business. 'Me' time? I'm lucky if I get time to plug in a hairdryer these days!
Unable to make a meaningful contribution to Ruth's survey, I thought I'd write this post instead.
The times in my life that have been the least balanced have also been the most productive. Like the time when I worked full-time and studied part-time at the same time, or now, being mum to a 22 month old and a 6 month old. Intense times, but times that are really rewarding as well as shattering, frustrating and challenging (in a good way).
I've noticed this in other people too. When I used to hang out with physicists (that doesn't make me a bad person, see 'the best advice I have ever been given' if you want me to explain… ) the best scientists weren't the ones that had balance in their lives, in fact they were the ones who were bordering on being obsessed.
I know there's more to life than achieving things, but it does suggest that aiming for balance isn't going to guarantee success or even satisfaction.
From time to time I read about someone who feels her (it's almost always a 'her') life is out of balance. She thinks that if all the different parts of her life rolled along in harmony she'd be happier. I think that misses the point. If you put your efforts into making all the aspects of your life cancel each other out, life might just pass you by.
Much better to accept that life is a rollercoaster and enjoy the ride. During the frantic times you could feel stressed, stretched, challenged, a sense of satisfaction, confusion, fear, proud of yourself, focussed. During the quieter times you might feel relaxed, calm, frustrated, bored, as if you're going nowhere, peaceful, demotivated.
Calm isn't necessarily better than being frantically busy. Both states have their good parts and their bad parts. Of course you need to take care of your relationship and your health or you'll be heading for divorce or worse. Being a workaholic and hardly ever spending time with your children would be a terrible shame. If you're working too hard and it's making you unhappy, change it if you can.
But if we actually balanced our lives, I'm not sure we'd be any happier than we are now.
Live your life, don't try to iron it flat.
Do you have any thoughts? Drop me a comment!
photo credit: stachelig